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Byford defends £949,000 BBC pay-off

Former BBC deputy director-general Mark Byford has defended his pay-off of almost £1 million - denying that he had been greedy.

Mr Byford, whose salary was £475,000, received a total of £949,000 when he was made redundant by the corporation.

His payment is one of several which have drawn widespread criticism of the BBC.

But when asked on BBC Radio 5 Live whether he would pay back some of the sum, Mr Byford responded: "I have done nothing wrong."

He told Victoria Derbyshire's show: "I appreciate obviously and understand that it was a lot of money. I appreciate the concern and criticism about the executive payoffs."

But he added: "I absolutely don't think it was greed on my part at all."

Mr Byford, who was on the radio show to talk about his new book, a war story, said: "I lost my job. I was made redundant. I was given the terms I was given by the BBC. I left when I was told to leave by the BBC.

"After 32 years of working there, where I was devoted to the corporation, the last thing that I would ever think or feel was that I would want to have greed."

Former director-general Mark Thompson told the Public Accounts Committee that the pay-off to Mr Byford, who left in 2011, was needed so he would remain "focused" on his job and not be distracted.

But when asked whether he really needed an extra £500,000 to stay focused on his job, Mr Byford replied: "That's his word... I wanted to do what the BBC wanted me to do."

Asked how it sounded to licence fee-payers, he replied: "I didn't say that I needed it in order to focus."

But he defended his former boss over the remark, saying he was "not insulted by those words at all".

He added: "I think what was meant there was that there was a huge task of ensuring that the largest broadcast news organisation in the world, which I was leading, that the transition of the responsibilities of duties were effectively done..."

"That, when I did leave, editorial policy issues, Olympics issues and journalism issues were absolutely clearly documented of who was responsible and how it would run now that my post had been closed."

Asked whether he would pay the extra money back following the controversy, he said: "It was properly approved and it was the terms I was given. In that context I absolutely think I have done no wrong."

Pressed on the issue, he responded: "I have just said to you, I'm not saying any more than that. Because I think I've made it absolutely clear and I don't think I should comment any further on it.

"I've come to talk about something that in the week of Remembrance is a very different subject matter. I've answered your questions."

Former BBC2 controller Roly Keating was given a £375,000 pay-off but returned the money after learning it had not been properly authorised.

Mr Byford said that although he had received a "lot of money", he was "number two at the BBC", had served more than 30 years and that it was in the context of "a big cull of the senior management".

He added: "I didn't want to go. I loved my job."

Mr Byford said he was asked to stay until June 2011 but the BBC "wanted to announce it immediately in October 2010 to create momentum for that overall savings programme... both internally and externally that in reducing the senior management it was going to go right to the very top."

He said his payment was "approved by the appropriate body... I took no part in it... I lost my job. I was given what I was given and agreed to do what the BBC wanted."

Asked whether he deserved the payment, he added: "I have never negotiated my salary from the day I joined the BBC, aged 20."

Asked whether he thought twice about the payment, he said: "All I wanted was for the BBC to feel that the terms that they were giving me were the terms that they felt were fair and correct... and I accepted them."

On damage to the broadcaster's reputation, he said: "I absolutely understood and understand today that it was a considerable amount of money... It's the terms that the BBC said I should have. It was appropriately approved."

Mr Byford said he could not say whether controversies which engulfed the BBC - the aborted Newsnight programme into sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile and an episode of Newsnight which led to Lord McAlpine being wrongly implicated in child sex abuse allegations - would have been averted if he had kept his post.

But he said that "as part of my responsibilities the most complex and sensitive editorial issues would land on my desk and I would handle them".

He said he had never heard rumours about Savile.

"I started at the BBC in 1979 at BBC Leeds, his home city... I stayed at the BBC for 32 years. I never heard any of those rumours, anecdotes or claims about sexual abuse on BBC premises."

The Savile scandal was "a horrific moment for the BBC", he said, adding that he was "horrified and disgusted" by what happened and that the BBC had lessons to learn.

Earlier this year, former director-general Mr Thompson was forced to deny a charge that the BBC had "lost the plot" when MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, asked why Mr Byford needed an extra payment when he was contractually due around half a million pounds .

Other payments which have caused controversy include £470,000 to former BBC director-general George Entwistle, after only 54 days in the job.

He resigned after BBC2's Newsnight wrongly implicated Lord McAlpine in the child abuse scandal.

The National Audit Office said the BBC paid £1.4 million more than it was contractually obliged to pay to 22 senior managers in the three years to December 2012 and that it paid £60 million to 401 senior managers over an eight-year period.

Lord Hall announced moves to cap BBC payments at £150,000 after taking over as director-general earlier this year.

After leaving the BBC, Mr Byford began work on a book, A Name On A Wall: Two Men, Two Wars, Two Destinies.

The book is the true story of Vietnam veteran Larry Byford, whose life Mr Byford researched after seeing his name on a US war memorial, and the contrasting war story of the author's own father, Lawry Byford, a Second World War draftee from Yorkshire.


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